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Erkkara Raman Namboodiri

That it was Mezhathol Agnihothri [click] who, during the fourth century (AD) revived the then declining Vedam-Yajnam [click] culture of Bhaaratham, is well known. But in the more recent context, very few realise that it was the inimitable "Vedarathnam" Erkkara Raman Namboodiri who was instrumental in the revival and preservation of the Yajnam culture and knowledge which had once again declined, thanks to the onslaught of Western culture and influence. While the Agnihothri accomplished it by performing 99 Yaagams himself, Erkkara led others in about a hundred Yaagams, earlier as "Parikarmi", then as "Rithwik" and even "Brahman". He took the leading role in the 1975 Paanjaal "Athiraathram" (rarely performed in Kerala), as if it was ordained. It was this Erkkara’s forefathers who led as Brahman [click] in the ancient Yaagams of Agnihothri !

Erkkara often used to attribute his rise to such levels to the blessings of the gods, his forefathers and all his well-wishers.

He was born on Mithhunam 2, 1073 (ME) [June 1898] on Kaarthika star to Erkkara Vasudevan Somayaajipad and Perindeeri Chennaath "Mahal" Sreedevi Pathinaadi. After basic education under Muriyath Achyutha Varier and "Upanayanam", he got trained in Rigvedam (Samhitha - the entire text), under his father, and in his twelfth year, "Samaavarthanam" was performed. He continued his studies in Sanskrit, Kaavyams, Thaithireeyam Bhaasha (on rituals of Yaagam), Braahmanams, Upanishaths, Aaranyakams, etc., and spent around two years studying Saasthrams under Neelakandhan Namboodiri in Pakaraavoor Gurukulam. Starting from age 13 and during the rest of his life, he participated in most of the Yaagams performed in Kerala - as Parikarmi, "Rithwik", and in the lead role in many. He participated in the rarely performed "Saagnikamathiraathram" too. And ofcourse, he and C V Somayaajipad led the famous 1975 Paanjaal Athiraathram.

In addition, in 1977, he made commendable contribution in the "Poundareekam" (32-day long Yajnam) in Andhra Pradesh and earned the respect of the scholars of the area, and the onlookers excitedly shouted "Mahaanubhaavalu" (a highly respected, worthy, noble person)!

It was in his fourteenth year that Erkkara performed "Aarthwijyam" as "Aagneedhran" (a Rithwik) in a Yaagam in the Thottam Mana of Paanjaal. Next year at the of age 15, his exemplary and confident performance in the difficult Aarthwijyam of "Aadhwaram" got praise from the greats of the time. Then, when he was 24, he earned accolades in a difficult and mentally and physically tiring Aadhwaram role in a Saagnikamathiraathram in Kavapra Maarath Mana. This was followed by his role as "Sadasyan" - an expert observer / adviser - in the Pakaraavoor and Neddham Yaagams. At the young age of 27 he performed "Pryshaarttham Parayuka", which is reserved for the great Vedic scholars, in another Yaagam in Paanjaal Thottam Mana.

Apart from matters relating to Yajnam, Erkkara successfully participated in the Vedam test - Anyonam at Kadavalloor [click]. He also managed well the household properties and family temple as his elder brother was into spiritual matters full-time. Erkkara participated in the 1942 - 43 (1118 ME) "Murahomam" at Guruvayur. His knowledge of Sanskrit and Saasthrams was enriched considerably as a result of his close association with the great scholars such as Vidwaan Maanthitta, and Pareekshith Thampuraan.

He once recited from memory the entire "Kausheethaka Braahmanam" to Dr E R Sreekrishna Sharma who was in search of its original text. Many years later in 1146 M E (1970 - 71), as per Dr Sharma’s request, he went and stayed in Tirupathi and got the entire Kausheethaka Braahmanam recorded. These, as well as his close relations with foreign scholars like Dr Staal and Parpola, elevated him to national and international levels.

In spite of a temporary half-year setback caused by a bad fall in Thaikkaatt (Vaidikan) Mana, he stayed home at Mookkuthala, and used to clear the doubts of the daily visitors seeking advice. His was, in those days, the last word on Sroutham - Smaartham matters. After 1970, he wrote several articles which got published. He was the founding editor of "Anaadi" monthly which was started in 1973.

Erkkara’s first book "Aamnaaya Mathhanam" got him the Sahithya Academy award. His later books "Ekaahaaheena Sathrangal" and "Srouthakarma Vivekam" were well received by scholars. In 1977, he received the President of India award. The title "Vedarathnam" awarded to him by Punnassery Neelakandha Samskritha College, Pattambi, can be said to be more of an honour for the Institution.

Erkkara married Muriyath Parvathy Vaarasyaar when he was 22. They had four sons and five daughters. As was the custom then, he lived with his brother and nephews. He died of old age on July 20, 1983. All the later Yaagams were conspicuous by his absence.

The Erkkara Smaaraka Samithi formed for spreading his life’s message has not made much progress in spite of working in that direction. As was Erkkara’s last wish, the Samithi published "Aagnika Samgraham" of Thaikkaattu Yogiyaar. As a result of the Samithi’s efforts, translations of Yajurvedam [click] and Saamavedam [click] have been prepared. The latter is in the process of being printed by the Matha Amrithaanandamayi Mission in Amrithapuri of Kollam. The fact that "Mathrubhoomi" has agreed to publish the complete works of Erkkara is quite encouraging.

| Article No:5.2.5 | Last update of this article:16th February 2007 |
Article by : Neddham Bhavathrathan Namboothiri, Vattamkulam, Near Edappal, Malappuram District. Tel: 0494-2680808
Translated by : K D Nambudripad

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